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Truck Fire Shuts Down Section of Mohawk Trail

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A truck caught fire on the Mohawk Trail late Thursday afternoon, prompting police to close off a portion of Route 2 for about an hour and a half.

North Adams Police and Fire departments responded to the blaze, which occurred about a quarter-mile east of West Shaft Road.

North Adams Fire Director Steve Meranti said there were no injuries, and that the fire was contained to the tractor portion of the vehicle and did not spread to the trailer. He said the cause was most likely "a mechanical malfunction."

At approximately 4:30 p.m., two Dean's Quality Auto trucks arrived for cleanup and towing. Meranti expected the road to be re-opened by 5:30 p.m.

Check back later for more information.

Update at 7:04 p.m.

The truck, which was eastbound on Route 2,  was a white 2000 Sterling semi tractor-trailer driven by Edward J. St. John, 68,  of Royalston and owned by Kenneth D. Pratt, operating as Pratt Transport of Winchendon. The trailer is owned by B&B Truck Leasing of Jefferson, Maine.

Ambulances were dispatched but St. John was not taken to the hospital.

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Van, Car Crash on State Road

Staff Reports

Emergency vehicles responded to a two-vehicle accident on State Road on Thursday afternoon.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A two-vehicle accident slowed traffic just west of the Stop & Shop on State Road on Thursday afternoon.

A small blue 2008 Honda Vivic sedan apparently collided with the back end of a Berkshire Gas van shortly after 1 p.m. Both vehicles were in the eastbound lane.

The driver was still in the car at 1:12  p.m. and speaking to police. An ambulance, several cruisers and two fire trucks were dispatched to the scene. The driver was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital with unknown injuries.  We'll update with more information later.

Update at 6:51 p.m.:

The driver of the Honda, Kathleen M. Casey, 59, of Williamstown was charged with reckless operation of the motor vehicle.

The driver of Berkshire Gas' 2001 Chevrolet Express Van was Craig F. Hamelin, 49,  of  Cheshire.

Both drivers were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital by North Adams Ambulance. The Honda was towed by Cariddi Auto and the van by Dean's Quality Auto. The accident was reported at 1:07 p.m.

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North Adams Man Arraigned On Charges Of Animal Cruelty; Pleads Not Guilty

Staff Reports

Wayne Brackett walks the track and Noel Field during Relay for Life in 2010 in this iBerkshires file photo.

Update Monday, June 14, 2010: Brackett was arraigned this morning in Northern Berkshire District Court on charges of five counts of animal cruelty and breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

WTEN reports that Brackett  was ordered held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $25,000 bail. His family was in court with him. His mother  told Channel 10 News that the family would stand beside him but "there is no excuse, there is justification, there is no anything, but he needs help." She said the family would stand beside him.

Brackett apparently told police he had been drinking and smoking pot and that he doesn't remember anything.

Brackett has been in trouble before. In 2005, he and two friends were arrested in connection with breaking and entering and car thefts. The three teens had reportedly broken into the Windsor Mill and stolen guitars and twice broke into then Gateway Chevrolet, stealing two cars they took joy riding.

His sister is reportedly battling cancer and Brackett participated in the Relay for Life fundraiser last month at Noel Field.


Taken from security cameras by WTEN.

UPDATE: Friday, June 11, at 6 p.m.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Wayne C. Brackett Jr. of North Adams was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the bunny killings that occurred Tuesday night.

Brackett, 23, turned himself in to police at around 3:30 p.m., according to Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco.

Brackett is being held on $10,000 bail and will be arraigned at Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday morning. He faces numerous charges, including five counts of animal cruelty, five counts of malicious killing of an animal and one count of breaking and entering at night.

Morocco confirmed that an investigation by police and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) had successfully identified the suspect. After interviewing Brackett,  MSPCA Sgt. Roy Sutton and local police searched Brackett's residence and found evidence that supported the charges against him.

"The MSPCA Law Enforcement and North Adams Police departments have been actively pursuing the suspect's identity and collecting crucial evidence since Tuesday evening," said Sutton in a statement on MSPCA's website.

In an interview with iBerkshires.com on Friday afternoon, Morocco said Brackett was "sullen" at the time of arrest. The arrest comes after police received an outpouring of community involvement over the last several days.

"We literally received 100 tips," Morocco said. "I don't think he had a choice [but to turn himself in]. We had pretty much narrowed it down to him."

A reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the bunny killer ballooned to $9,000 in a couple of days, including large donations from the MSPCA, North Adams Police,  Pittsfield Police and $5,000 from a WTEN News sponsor. The killings also resulted in an outpouring of support for the Duquette family, whose 6-year-old daughter had been raising the bunnies with her grandfather.

"I've been around a long time, and I've seen people do a lot of things to a lot of other people," said Morocco.  "When it happens to animals, it's a whole different issue, especially since they depend on us for so much.

"People do a lot of cruel things. I've seen a lot of stuff, but never with this much anger."

To view WTEN's report of the arrest, click here. The Albany, N.Y., television station was among the first on the scene Wednesday morning.


UPDATE: Thursday, June 10, at 5:10 p.m.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are still on the lookout for a white male between the ages of 16 to 20 years old, who is responsible for killing five rabbits Tuesday night at Berkshire County Construction on Ashland Street.

As of 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said the case was "put to bed for the day, unless something happens tonight." Asked if there were any leads in the case, Morocco said he could not divulge that information, adding that "there is nothing new to report."

Morocco said, in an interview with the North Adams Transcript, the suspect is approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs between 140 and 160 pounds. The suspect is facing felony charges of malicious destruction of the animal of another and cruelty to animals. If convicted, he faces up to 2 1/2 years in state prison and up to a $2,500 fine.

Police suspect, but cannot confirm, that the male is also responsible for two other acts of vandalism that occurred shortly before the animal attacks took place. According to reports, a camper at Windsor Lake was broken into and two trucks at Construction Drilling Co. on Ashland Street were smashed.

Morocco said that the reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest is between $6,000 and $9,000.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call North Adams Police at 413-664-4944.


UPDATE: Wednesday, June 9

Police are investigating the bizarre killing of five pet rabbits Tuesday night at Berkshire County Construction on Ashland Street. The culprit apparently broke into two other locations before brutalizing the rabbits.

The case was still under investigation and no one had yet been arrested, said North Adams Police Sgt. James Foley.

Security footage shows what appears to be a young man wearing a trucker cap, black hooded sweat shirt, camouflage pants and a backpack terrorizing the rabbits, kicking them and tossing them. Foley said the suspect was first picked up by the security cameras about 8:30, at least a half-hour before he broke a window and set off the alarm. By the time police arrived, he'd fled the scene.

The individual also is believed to have broken into a drilling company across the street from Berkshire County Construction and a camper at Windsor Lake. "The park people chased him out of there," said Foley.

The man knocked over the hutches, freeing 14 of the 17 rabbits being raised by the owner's father and his young daughter. Foley said five were killed but all 14 were affected. "These are domestic rabbits. They were let loose and put in danger from other animals," he said.

Animal cruelty is a felony in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has launched its own investigation and removed the bunnies' bodies this morning to be autopsied.

Both the police and MSPCA are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, said Foley.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call North Adams Police at 413-664-4944.

Here's WTEN Channel 10's report on the story.

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North Adams Adds Firefighter

Staff Reports

Shaun F. Hayden, center, poses with wife Malinda, son Brodie and Fire Director Steve Meranti outside City Hall.

Shaun F. Hayden was sworn in as a full-time firefighter on Tuesday night at the North Adams City Council. Hayden is the second permanent firefighter hired this year; Matthew Davis joined the company in February.

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said Hayden brings the firefighting force up to the required 24. He replaces longtime firefighter and fire educator David Simon who recently retired.

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Couple Sentenced for Embezzlement, False Entry into Corporate Books

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A husband and wife who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and false entry into corporate books were sentenced this morning in Berkshire Superior Court.

According to the office of Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, George Vogel, 60, and Vivian A. Gagnon-Vogel, 49, of 16 Comanche Drive, North Adams, pleaded guilty to one count each of embezzlement and false entry to corporate books on January 15.

The couple took some $1.5 million from their employer, O'Connell Oil at the North Adams Convenience Plus, between Dec. 1, 2003 and Nov. 2, 2007.

Judge Peter Velis sentenced Vogel to a concurrent sentence of three to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. Velis sentenced Gagnon-Vogel to five to six years at the same prison on the false entry charge, and ordered her to serve a concurrent four to five-year sentence on the embezzlement charge.

The North Adams convenience store was managed by Vogel and Gagnon-Vogel was the bookkeeper in the company’s North Adams office. Police said she was taking up to $1,000 in cash a day to support a drug addiction and overstating credit card receipts to balance the books.

Update, May 26, 2010:  A third person, Theresa M. Hosier, 50, of West Shaft Road was sentenced Wednesday, May 26, in Berkshire Superior Court after pleading guilty to single counts of embezzlement and and false entry into corporate books.

Judge John A. Agostini placed her on probation for trhee years and ordered her to perform 500 hours of community service. The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department.

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